This shimmering Summer/Moroder/Belotte collaboration was 1977’s portal into the eighties. Here are a bunch of things you might not know about the unstoppable dancefloor classic.
1. Donna Summer recorded her vocal in one take
One shot and done. No messing.
Summer is famous for her disco and pop career, but before she hit the big time she was already an accomplished singer who sang in musicals, folk opera and in the studio as a session musician.
The Boston-born singer started out in a rock band before moving to central Europe to make a living. She was singing in the musical ‘Hair’ in Munich when she came to the attention of Moroder’s writing partner Pete Belotte.
With such a beefy professional CV, it’s no wonder Donna nailed her ethereal vocal in a single take.
2. Giorgio Moroder was a bit of a cheeseball nerd
Well, sort of. Italian-born Moroder spent his early career in Germany creating lightweight pop. His 1969 single ‘Doo-Bee-Doo-Bee-Doo’ was used on The Benny Hill Show.
Giorgio remained out of step with the hedonistic lifestyle he went on to soundtrack, preferring a nice early night to a drug-fuelled dance party.
Since the arrival of nu-disco in the early 2000s, Moroder has experienced something of a revival. Daft Punk even created a song about him — ‘Giorgio by Moroder’ — where he recalls the recording of ‘I Feel Love’, among other reminiscences. As a result, he now spends more time in nightclubs DJing than he ever did in the seventies and eighties.
3. The first single Summer, Moroder and Belotte worked on together got banned
‘Love to Love You Baby’, the precursor to ‘I Feel Love’, was banned by the BBC thanks to Summer’s ecstatic moans.
Somewhat terrifyingly, she later stopped performing the song live due to an incident at a performance in Italy. After singing the song she was pursued off-stage by a male mob who then proceeded to rock the trailer in which she was hiding.
4. ‘I Feel Love’ was never intended to be a single
The song is taken from ‘I Remember Yesterday’, Summer’s concept album where each song represented a different era in musical history. ‘I Feel Love’ was written almost as an afterthought — a vision of the music of the future.
5. The only live drum sound on the record is the kick
Every other drum part came from the Moog. Even the hi-hat sound was created by clipping white noise and processing it — a revelation at the time.
Each drum sound was recorded separately, keeping the sound clean, clinical and in keeping with Moroder’s Kraftwerk-inspired vision.
Their one concession to actual real-life drums was the kick drum, which was recorded live.
It was played by session drummer Keith Forsey, who went on to be a highly successful producer in his own right. He famously wrote ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ — originally intended for his protégé Billy Idol.
6. Donna really was feeling the love when they wrote the song.
Summer was a big astrology fan. When Belotte turned up at Summer’s house ready to write the song’s lyrics, she was on the phone to her astrologer. They were in the process of working out if Summer’s new beau, guitarist and singer Bruce Sudano, was the right man for her. Donna came downstairs to meet Belotte having just been told that Sudano was “the one”. Turned out he was — Summer and Sudano were together until her death in 2012.
7. Brian Eno told David Bowie ‘I Feel Love’ would “change the face of club music for the next 15 years”
Eno famously rushed into the studio where he was recording with Bowie, brandishing the single and declaring “this is it, look no further!”
15 years turned out to be an understatement — the single is widely acknowledged to have changed dance music for good. Never before had the lush orchestration of disco been stripped away and replaced by something so cool, precise and otherwordly. The song’s sentiment was still soulful and human, but the delivery was pure machine. Even Summer’s vocal, breathed out in her celestial ‘head voice’, feels not of this earth.
The track went on to inspire new wave, Hi-NRG, Italo, synth-pop and more. It fed the foundations of house music and shaped dance music — or EDM — as it is today.
This #write52 piece is part of a series of articles on number one singles. Each article is published in the week that particular song was in the number one spot. ‘I Feel Love’ topped the UK charts for four weeks in the summer of 1977.
#write52 is a writing project by Ed Callow, who basically bullies us into creating original content every week for 52 weeks. There’s now a weekly newsletter with a round-up of all the submissions and you can sign up for it here.
I’m Penny, a freelance writer and content strategist. If you’re interested reading more of my stuff and nonsense, the best place to follow me is on Instagram.